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Entomology Work Provides New Opportunities for Colombian Women

The Abt-led, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Project is the first of its kind in Latin America. It’s particularly important for Colombia, which in 2020 accounted for about 16 percent of all malaria cases in LAC.[1]

The project’s goal is to measure the entomological impact of malaria control interventions, specifically the distribution of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) implemented by the Ministry of Health in the malaria-endemic municipalities of Guapi and Timbiquí on Colombia’s Pacific coast. The project expects to provide evidence about the effectiveness of these tools against malaria vectors that exhibit behaviors distinct from those in Africa.

To achieve this goal, the project locally hired and trained 42 field mosquito collectors for the study. Training covered vector control interventions, basic community mobilization, mosquito collection techniques, and symptoms, treatment, and prevention of malaria. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of the mosquito collectors are women who would otherwise have few job opportunities.

In Guapi and Timbiquí, women oversee activities such as cleaning and preparing food. On top of that, they often must work to support their families—in this case, collecting mosquitoes at night. Night work can come after a grueling day. For example, a basic and critical activity such as going to buy food is hard because it requires river transport; electricity is also limited to a few hours a day. However, these obstacles have made the women remarkably resilient.

Many of the field collectors are also mothers, so they have maternal responsibilities during the day in addition to work at night. To ensure adequate rest, the project adjusted the nights of mosquito collection so there would never be two collection nights in a row. For many of the women, this is their first formal job. They feel empowered to have some economic freedom and to realize that they can contribute to their communities’ well-being. They know a lot about mosquitoes, but thanks to their training, they learn about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of malaria and some other vector-borne diseases. The field collectors thus serve as “vectors” of knowledge that impact the communities where they live.

The female mosquito collectors are leaders, serving as role models for girls and women. They are improving their economic situations because they have dignified work and a source of income that enables them to have more independence. Where other employment for women is limited, USAID-funded PMI VectorLink LAC offers an opportunity for women who serve as collectors to improve their and their families’ quality of life.

These women face many challenges, but entomology work enables them to reach their potential and show just what they can do.


[1] World Malaria Report 2021, p. 155:

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